COLORADO SPRINGS: The prospect of Russian athletes being welcomed back into the fold for the Olympics is causing alarm amongst rivals, with questions swirling over whether the country can rebuild a credible anti-doping regime in time for Rio. Track and field has been plunged into the worst crisis in its history over the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) report which uncovered a sophisticated state-supported doping program pervading all levels of Russian athletics.
The International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) slapped a provisional suspension on Russia last week while WADA on Wednesday suspended the scandal-tainted Russian Anti-Doping Agency (RUSADA), ruling it was non-compliant with the body’s code.
Technically, the decision heightens the possibility of Russian athletes being barred from taking part in Rio next year. That eventuality remains remote however. Both the IAAF and WADA have expressed desire to oversee a rehabilitation of anti-doping practices in Russia that brings them back into compliance with global standards. But the notion of Russian athletes being allowed to compete in Rio has caused disquiet amongst competitors past and present. Addressing WADA’s board meeting in Colorado Springs on Wednesday, US track and field great Ed Moses said he believed Russian athletes should be barred as a deterrent.
‘Enough is Enough’
“The only sanction is to say that enough is enough. It is to state loudly and clearly that the Russian athletics team cannot go to Rio,” said Moses, who also called for WADA’s independent commission to widen its mandate by investigating doping across all Russian sports. “I had many close friends who had irreplaceable moments stolen from them,” said Moses, referring to the drug-tainted era of the 1970s and 1980s in which he competed. “My hope is that there is not a generation of athletes that have their dreams stolen from them too.” Moses’ comments struck a chord with Kirsty Coventry, the Zimbabwean double 200m backstroke champion from the 2004 and 2008 Olympics who will compete in her final games in Rio.
Coventry, who sits on WADA’s athlete committee, said many fellow swimmers had contacted her to express alarm about Russia, adding that she also wanted to see a wider probe into Russian sport. “There’s a lot of concern. I’ve had a lot of swimmers get in touch with me to ask what can we do,” Coventry said. “Speaking as an athlete that’s going to be competing in Rio I want to know that I’m competing against clean athletes and not be suspicious. It’s my last Olympics and I don’t want to be up there thinking ‘Oh crap, she might be doping’.” —AFP